Being a baseball fan is heartbreaking work. Being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan redefines heartbreaking. I was in the stands last year when we clinched our 19th consecutive losing season, which stung all the more after a brilliant first half that fell apart after a blown call in a game against Atlanta.
This year, the Pirates’ determination to, at the very least, have a winning season returned with great fervor. And they’ve played brilliantly, displaying grit that is quite simply inspirational. Watching Pittsburghers apply their famous devotion to the Pirates again has been so fun and while the Pirates have been faltering recently, it seems like a winning season might actually be within our reach this year.
Baseball and music are inextricably linked. There are the little interludes during games and the songs that the players choose to walk up to the plate to (the topic for next week’s follow-up post). Plenty of ink has been spilled onto the pages of books and sheet music about the game. Here are, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best tunes.
6. “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen
Okay, confession time: I don’t like Bruce Springsteen very much. I know that’s unforgivable in many circles, but something about his music has always irked me. But I’ve always had a soft spot for this song, despite the video displaying the least likely reaction to a mandolin solo ever.
Its baseball ties are obvious: one of the characters in the lyrics is a former baseball player who can’t let go of his glorious past and the video shows Springsteen practicing his pitch. Its appeal is, I think, pretty universal as reflection is irresistible.
5. “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits
This is kind of an odd choice, since this song isn’t really about baseball. But it’s become a baseball song to me because the music video shown in the US was clips of Dire Straits performing cut with sports bloopers. Perhaps the organ elements in the song cemented the notion that it was a baseball song. Nonetheless, if I hear this out of the context of a summer ball game, I get very confused.
4. “Centerfield” by John Fogerty
This song seems to be, very simply, a love letter to the game. John Fogerty wrote it after attending the 1984 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. It has become a staple of baseball, played at games and at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
3. “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley
This one is probably kind of a stretch for most people, but I’ve always considered it to be baseball-related in an artistic sense. “The Boys of Summer” is a phrase from a Dylan Thomas poem that was later used as the title for Roger Kahn’s 1972 memoir about being a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. The phrase then went on to become a term for baseball players. Henley’s song describes loving a woman “after the boys of summer have gone.” In other words, he’s not intending for their relationship to just be a summer fling. This song is nowhere near as joyous as the others on this list, but I always find the end of summer and baseball season to be so bittersweet.
2. “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge
I would hope that my reasons for picking this are obvious. This song was the theme for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, that season being the last time we won a World Series. I love that a disco song was used as our anthem, since it’s so celebratory and just everything that music and baseball should be.
1. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”
This is a painfully obvious choice, but is one of my favorite parts of going to a game. Baseball games are one of the times that I feel the most camaraderie with people in general. We’re all there for one reason: to cheer on the home team. Conversations never really veer far from the game in front of us. Any other thing that might cause conflict is forgotten for a few hours. I high-five the people next to me when someone hits a home run. And during the seventh-inning stretch we link arms and sway side to side while we belt out the lyrics that seem to have been imprinted upon our brains at birth. For the length of nine innings, everything is okay.